It pays to stick to the core

D. Murali | Updated on December 07, 2011

The Old Rules of Marketing are Dead Timothy R. Pearson

Marketers cannot sit idly by and let others make decisions on customer service, reputation management, pricing, distribution, or the myriad other issues that must be confronted; marketing must lead, says Timothy R. Pearson in The Old Rules of Marketing are Dead: 6 New Rules to Reinvent Your Brand & Reignite Your Business ( Urging marketers to lead because others will then follow, he poses some tough questions, such as: Is marketing viewed as a strategic partner by leadership? Does marketing have a seat at the table when the company's vision is being set? And, does your team aspire to accomplish the vision you set, or do they think you set the bar too high?

Core deviations

The book opens with the rule that the core is everything. The core of a brand is its essence, the unique differentiator and distinctiveness that attracts buyers and consumers time and again, building brand preference and customer loyalty, explains Pearson.

He cautions that when enterprises move away from this core, they can damage their brands and the relationship with their targeted audiences. An example cited is about how Dell faced severe customer service problems in the mid-2000s. “From 2003 to 2005 Dell sold millions of PCs that leaked chemicals and malfunctioned in other manners – and when it got complaints, blamed the users for overtaxing the machines,” the book chronicles.

Rues Pearson that Dell was off track all the time for a very simple reason: It lost sight of its core, which was more than an efficient manufacturing and pricing model – it was an emotional connection with its customers, who felt its customer service was top-notch. It did not recognise the marketplace was changing all too quickly: businesses were reducing their technology expenditures, and consumers (and non-US markets) were the growing opportunity, one that Dell started to treat with less respect just as the market changed, he adds. “Dell remains a company in search of a new identity – and a brand that is out of touch with its core essence. Until it revisits that essence, it cannot and will not successfully reinvent itself.”

Walmart story

One other rule in the book is that there are many choices but only one customer. Here, the author emphasises that while strategy is the heart, measurement is the lifeblood. And he calls for viewing marketing as an investment, not as an expense. A telling example given in the book is of Walmart, which did better than most other retailers during the recent recession.

In 2005 to 2006, the company had a very brief flirtation with designer branding and positioning as a higher-end retailer, directly competing with Target, narrates Pearson. Course-correction included many changes, such as getting Stephen F. Quinn, a marketer from Pepsico's $10-billion Frito-Lay division, as the new chief marketing officer. The new merchant leaders understood the essence of the retail concept Sam Walton had created: Walmart is a discount store that saves people money to help them live their lives better, and that it does not compete with Target or other retailers because it is one of a kind. “Walmart went back to its future just as the recession hit. In its legacy role, it was ideally positioned when Americans began looking for ways to save money yet still get a good value.”

Right reasons

Rule four instructs, ‘Do the right things for the right reasons.' A chapter devoted to this rule begins by fretting that many businesses and even more marketers today believe they are missing out if they are not on Facebook, Twitter, or similar sites or applications where communities of consumers gather and congregate. Reminds Pearson that reinvention requires doing what is best for the brand and not falling prey to the tendency and pressure to do what everyone else is doing, especially when it comes to social networking. “A marketer's job is to drive ever-increasing profitable sales. If an online social network presence isn't central to accomplishing that objective, then resist the pressure.”

On celebrity endorsements, an insight of value is to learn from instances when the icons fell from grace, as in the case of Tiger Woods, who was associated with brands such as Accenture, Nike, General Motors, and American Express. For, he was known as the world's most marketable athletes and was admired and respected by people of all ages.

The author's advice, therefore, is to determine exactly what the celebrity's role would be and have the data-driven metrics to evaluate and continue its association for the long term. Nike stood by Woods after the return to golf at the 2010 Masters. If you wonder ‘why,' the reasons are financial, observes Pearson. “Nike Golf is one of the fastest-growing brands in the sport, with an estimated $648 million in sales in 2009…”

Ideal addition to marketers' reading list, in case they are open to reinvention.

Published on December 07, 2011

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